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Cannonball Read #5: Cloud Pavilion

11/15/2009

I was so pleased to see the latest by Laura Joh Rowland on the new book shelf! Cloud Pavilion is the 14th novel set at the turn of the 17th to 18th centuries in feudal Japan featuring the shogun’s investigator, Sano Ichirō.

In the first of this series, Sano, a samurai, is promoted to chief investigator and in later novels to a very high office. He must always balance his loyalty to the shogun, to Reiko – Sano’s investigation-loving wife, and to bushido – the way of the samurai. His nemesis, Chamberlain Yanagisawa, is constantly scheming to best Sano and be the shogun’s favorite. By the time Cloud Pavilion begins, Sano and Yanagisawa are sharing the duties of chamberlain, and the sons of both men are taking after their fathers in political trickery and detection.

The mystery to be solved in this novel is a series of kidnaps and rapes. Sano’s long estranged uncle seeks his help in finding his daughter, Sano’s cousin Chiyo. Two other women have vanished in similar circumstances, and Sano must find their abductor – but is there just one culprit?

Set in the the Genroku period, these novels deftly illustrate Japan at that time and the differences between that world and ours. What crime procedural of modern time has a forensic scientist who is forbidden to touch a corpse? Victims of the rapes in this novel are cast out by their families, and must leave their parents or children behind. The threat of his death and his family’s death constantly hangs over Sano’s head, and the whim of the shogun can doom them all at any time.

I wholeheartedly recommend this entire series and this most recent volume.

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